Goodreads users voted and declared The Fireman the best horror of 2016. I figured I’d better just visit this one before the year ended, despite recognizing a popularity contest for what it is.
The world has come to burn on the strength of a spore lingering within the ashes of ruination. Harper is a nurse and the hero of this breezy ride. The idea is wild, and wildly fun. Joe Hill’s Fireman starts out blazing, with strong ties to reality and palpable pain. The apocalypse really sets itself into motion and the mystery of The Fireman himself comes into play.
He's a foreboding, intriguing character, easy to like, one that will, even from the initial meeting, be a fine suitor for Harper despite the fact that she's still happily married at the time. There's a bit of foreshadowing for this marital collapse even on her first visit home from school.
At page 250 or so, redundancy pokes its head. That devil does drive home ideas, over and over, and damned if he doesn't find his way in one shape or another in every single chapter after the first third or so. Whenever I come upon a long novel and the author is stuck on repeat, I wonder if a novel is structured specifically for readers with only a half-hour here, a few minutes on the can there, to dive into novels. Does market analysis come into mind in the rewrite stage?
Probably not on the author’s end.
There is a lot to like in this story. The thrills are vibrant. The characters are rounded. The scenery is thick. The emotional tugs carry weight. However, the good times wane and Joe Hill sets into the dread with predictable and thoroughly explained, revisited, re-enacted and forewarned.
Had The Fireman been a tight, 350-page novel, it would've been something to behold.